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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Curt Weldon vs Eric Lichtblau

Here is a transcript from "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", yesterday on PBS. Audio and video are also available:

JEFFREY BROWN: It was the lead story Friday in a number of major newspapers: a secret administration counterterrorism program to monitor financial records that flow through a large international, Belgium-based banking cooperative known as SWIFT.

Once the story was out, Treasury Secretary John Snow held a press conference to defend it and to criticize news organizations for publishing it, after the administration specifically asked the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post not to run it.

Today, the criticism continued, as the president responded to a question about the secret program with a blast at the press.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Congress was briefed. And what we did was fully authorized under the law.

And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America. And for people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.

If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money. And that's exactly what we're doing. And the fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.

JEFFREY BROWN: For his part, New York Times editor Bill Keller responded to criticisms in a long letter on the paper's Web site. He described "weeks of discussion between administration officials and the Times" over the story, and his conclusion that the Times had acted in "the public interest."

"Nobody," he writes, "should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current administration, or without fully weighing the issues."

An arduous decision
JEFFREY BROWN: And we look at the story behind the news story now with Eric Lichtblau, New York Times reporter, and co-author of Friday's articles, as well as the Times' 2005 story about the National Security Agency's secret domestic wiretapping program.

And Representative Curt Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania, he's a senior member of both the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.

Eric Lichtblau, starting with you, the Times was specifically asked not to publish this article, and yet you did it. Why?

ERIC LICHTBLAU, Reporter, New York Times: Well, as Bill Keller, our editor, has indicated, we spent weeks and weeks -- and, in fact, a period of several months -- talking to the administration, listening to their arguments. And this is not a decision that the paper took lightly; it was made by the top editors of the paper.

And the feeling was that -- I think, at its core -- the fact that the government is very interested in tracking terrorist finances is no secret. President Bush and his top aides have made that point for the last 4 1/2 years.

In fact, it's so commonly known that we're interested in tracking terrorist finances that there have been numerous stories and numerous statements from congressional officials and administration officials about how the terrorists have now started moving their money outside financial institutions.

And I think it was felt that this was a story that contributed to the whole public debate and deserved a public airing.

JEFFREY BROWN: These meetings that you had with the administration, who asked for them, and how unusual is it for these to occur?

ERIC LICHTBLAU: It's fairly unusual. We were in the same situation, of course, before the story on the NSA. And, in both cases, there were requests from the administration not to publish a story once they learned that we were working on it.

And I think it's also worth pointing out that, once they heard that we were doing reporting on this story, they then expanded the number of congressional officials who were briefed. There were very limited briefings initially about this program. Once there was the fear of it becoming public, they then briefed full committees, only in response to our inquiries.

Security vs. public interest
JEFFREY BROWN: Congressman Weldon, the president calls the disclosure "disgraceful." One of your colleagues, Peter King, this weekend called it treasonous, going further. What do you call it?

REP. CURT WELDON (R), Pennsylvania: I call it very dangerous. We're in the midst of a major war against terrorism. And the way that we win this war is through good intelligence.

It doesn't matter how strong our military is in this battle. It's understanding where these terror cells are, how to deal with them, how to get at them.

No one in America has the right to release classified information. If I take what the New York Times has done, then all 535 members of Congress can on their own individually select what they want to release, because we're all given access to classified information.

As the vice chairman of both the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, I'm given access to almost any level of intelligence I want. Do I then have the power and the authority to determine in my own mind what I would or would not release? That's not what my job is; I swore and took an oath not to do that.

And the people that these papers are dealing with took the same oath. I'm really outraged and incensed at both the paper, but also at these Americans who work for our system who, even though they took an oath, have selectively determined what they will declassify.

If a member of Congress did that, then that member of Congress would be subject to prosecution. No individual reporter and no individual citizen working for the CIA, or DIA, or any other agency has the right to violate the protection for the American people that we swore to uphold and protect and provide.


Mr. Lichtblau, what gives you the right? Explain it.

ERIC LICHTBLAU: Well, I think the press, obviously, has a fundamental role as a watch dog over government, and, you know, that's deeply embedded in our Constitution.

And it's not a responsibility that the paper takes lightly. There are numerous instances in which the paper keeps things out of the newspaper for reasons of national security. That's done, I'd say, on a regular basis.

This was not a case where the editors felt, in the end, that was necessary. And they thought that this was a decision, again, a story worth airing. And I'd also point out that other newspapers came to that same decision, including the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal.

JEFFREY BROWN: Congressman Weldon, would you suggest that, as soon as the administration asks that a story not be published, that's the end of it, that everyone should abide by that?

REP. CURT WELDON: Well, you know, we have a process in America where people are elected to represent constituents. And we in the Congress then elect people who are on separate committees involving our intelligence.

And these members take an extra oath, both in the Senate and the House. There are Democrats and Republicans who are briefed at the highest level of the secrets that are important to America's security; that also includes the leadership of both bodies.

No individual reporter has the right to supersede what is given to those individuals who protect the secrets of America, and yet that's what reporters of the New York Times have done.

It wasn't too long ago they ran a story depicting the body of an American soldier on the front page of the paper showing the vulnerable areas where a terrorist could hit him. That led directly to increased shots against our troops because of the vulnerability showed by the New York Times, even though our generals in theater had asked the Times not to run that story and not to run that depiction.

You know, we've got a fundamental problem here. Selective leaks are now occurring by people who have taken an oath not to provide leaks. And now these selective leaks are being used by media outlets.

Again, I would go back to, does this now mean that all 535 members of Congress can pick or choose what they want to leak because they perhaps think that's more important to the American people than what our White House does? I think not.

And I think we're in very dangerous territory, and I think these newspapers have gone well over the line, in terms of what a free press is supposed to be doing, to keep our nation strong.

Revealing nervous concerns
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Mr. Lichtblau, tell us about the leaks. Explain to us how these stories occur. How do they come to you? And what are the motivations of the people, do you think, that the people that are contacting you?

ERIC LICHTBLAU: Well, I'm obviously not going to get into details about the sources of the story, particularly when their leak investigations are under way in a number of other areas.

And the one thing I can say we said in the story that we did last Friday was that there was concern among some of the nearly 20 people that we talked to that what had started out as a temporary emergency response to 9/11 had become permanent, now nearly five years after 9/11, without really specific congressional authorization, without even knowledge by most members of Congress or the relevant committees, and that we are now in a semi-permanent emergency state.

This was, you know, obviously a public policy issue that seemed, again, worth a public airing. And this was not a concern just shared by the New York Times. We didn't create the nervousness here.

There was nervousness by SWIFT itself, the consortium in Belgium, which, as we pointed out in the story, threatened to pull out of this program in 2003 and stayed on only after very high-level meetings with Alan Greenspan and with Bob Mueller at the FBI, because the company itself was asking how long what was seen as an emergency program would be allowed to continue. So I think it's in that context.

REP. CURT WELDON: This is outrageous.

JEFFREY BROWN: Go ahead, Mr. Weldon. How...

REP. CURT WELDON: This is outrageous! The New York Times, a profit-making entity, designed to improve their bottom line to make a profit, has decided that they can supersede members of Congress from both parties who are briefed on these important programs for our national security.

So the New York Times has decided they know more than Nancy Pelosi, or they know more than Carl Levin, or they know more than Pete Hoekstra. They've decided that they know best, in terms of what should be questioned...

JEFFREY BROWN: But, Mr. Weldon...

REP. CURT WELDON: ... a profit-making entity. That is absolutely outrageous.

Smoldering tensions grow
JEFFREY BROWN: Mr. Weldon, though, what about the First Amendment, the role of the press, as a separate body that has a role in disseminating information? And what Mr. Lichtblau was talking about, if there are concerns out there, if there is discomfort with the program by people, what other way do they have of getting that out, other than talking to a reporter?

REP. CURT WELDON: Well, first of all, people who have top-secret security clearances take an oath not to reveal the information they're working on. Many of these people have partisan agendas, as we saw with Mary McCarthy, who openly contributed to one party as she was leaking information to the Washington Post. That's not the job of intelligence analysts.

And when the media encourages that kind of activity, then, in fact, they're causing an undermining of the very intelligence that this country is relying on to deal with these terrorist cells. And it takes away our ability to provide that protection that the American people need.

If members of Congress who are briefed and who are elected by the people determine that an administration has overstepped its bounds, then we have the ability and we have in a process to bring it back under control.

If the New York Times really wanted to do that, then they would have gone to members of Congress and said, "What are you going to do about this?" instead of broadcasting it all over the world. They didn't do that.

They chose the profit motive, to continue to make the profit that drives the bottom line of these newspapers. And that's outrageous.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mr. Lichtblau, I'll give you one last response here. Do you see -- you've been involved in several of these. Do you see a growing tension here between the media, or part of it, and this administration?

ERIC LICHTBLAU: Well, I think there is, certainly, a growing tension, and that goes beyond, you know, the couple of stories that I've worked on. I mean, this is something we're seeing played out on a daily and weekly basis, with clashes between the media and the administration.

And, you know, there's a raging public debate, I think, between national security and the public's right to know, and oftentimes those interests conflict.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Eric Lichtblau and Congressman Curt Weldon, thank you both very much.


REP. CURT WELDON: Thank you.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ann Coulter on Able Danger

You might have heard that Ann's new book mentions Able Danger. Although I usually disagree with her, she has most of the facts right here:

The only valuable information about government failure leading up to 9/11 has come out in the press, not the commission report.

The "Clinton Whitewash Commission" covered up a classified military data-mining project known as "Able Danger," for example. The Able Danger intelligence operation was said to have identified Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 attack, and perhaps three other hijackers, more than a year before the attack - in other words, back when you-know-who was president. The Commission completely ignored this stunning information, almost as if they were trying to cover something up.

When the media got wind of Able Danger, long after the commission had completed its report, the Democratic co-chairman of the commission, Lee Hamilton, denied that they had heard anything about Able Danger. "The 9/11 Commission," Hamilton said, "did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohamed Atta or his cell. Had we learned of it obviously it would have been a major focus of our investigation." A day or two later, Hamilton changed his story, admitting the commission had been told about Able Danger, but claimed they didn't mention it in their report because it was not "historically significant." (This time the word obviously was conspicuously absent from his prepared statement.)

Able Danger wasn't "historically significant" in the sense that the intelligence gathered by the operation did not stop the 9/11 attack. It could not have prevented the attack, because the information produced by Able Danger was destroyed by the Clinton administration. So on Hamilton's theory, the only way for Able Danger to have been "historically significant" is if the intelligence had prevented the attack, in which case there would have been no need for a 9/11 Commission. I think that's what the Commission was supposed to be looking for.

She goes on to talk about Jamie Gorelick and her conflicts of interest serving as a 9/11 Commissioner, although she does not specifically relate that to Able Danger.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hearing video request

The February 15th hearing in the House Armed Services Committee was aired live on the Pentagon Channel, throughout Washington DC, and at military bases world wide.

For both legal and journalistic reasons we need to get a copy of that video. If you have a copy, or know anyone who has a copy, please contact us by email at or leave a comment in the comments section below.

Profile of Weldon

The Washington Post has a new piece on Weldon's re-election campaign:

"For 36 years, I've lived and breathed this district," said Weldon. "Yeah, you can have national moods, but these people know I'll be there for them."

But Weldon, the vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is best known for his faraway interests. A fluent Russian speaker who majored in Russian studies, he has made more than two dozen trips to the former Soviet Union and initiated a Duma-Congress Study Group.

He is fearless in challenging conventions, alleging for instance that a secret government program known as Able Danger had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta more than a year before Sept. 11, 2001. That assertion was disputed by the Pentagon and members of the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks and the government's response.

Weldon riveted the Kiwanis Club audience with tales of his run-ins with the Bush administration, including a 2003 fight with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice over a congressional delegation to North Korea. Rice opposed the idea, but Weldon complained to Bush and took his trip.

Remember to show your own support here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weldon calls for regulation of ammonium nitrate

From Keith Phucas:

In the wake of arrests in Canada of suspected terrorists plotting to make a bomb containing fertilizer, U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-7th Dist., wrote a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert last week urging passage of a year-old bill that would regulate ammonium nitrate purchases.

Fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate is commonly used in soil for pastures and citrus groves, among other agricultural crops. The compound is also used as an explosive and has been mixed with substances such as TNT. Ammonium nitrate is used in solid-fuel rocket propellants, fireworks and to make nitrous oxide.

According to reports, the Muslim suspects arrested in Canada were trying to acquire as much as three tons of the chemical compound. One ton of ammonium nitrate was used in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 that killed 168 people.

House Resolution 3197, the Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act of 2005, was introduced by Weldon last July to keep tabs on fertilizer purchases. The bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to regulate the production, sale or distribution of ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers. Only those dealers registered with the government agency would be legally able to buy or sell the compound. Under the measure, dealers and buyers would be required to keep records of sales for at least three years. Homeland Security would monitor record keeping and fine violators up to $50,000 per violation.

The House Committee on Homeland Security unanimously voted to move the bill to the House floor for a vote. A similar measure was introduced in the Senate.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hey, what took them so long?

This is just conjecture on my part, but stay with me while I explain how the coverup of Able Danger adversely affected the hunt for Zarqawi and other High Value Targets in Iraq. Sure, they've done a decent job, but they could have used some more help.

From Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer's written testimony:

(U) While deployed in Afghanistan on this second tour, I was offered a new job by [ ] (GS-15) – the chief of the Iraq Combat Support Task Force. The Afghanistan and Iraq Combat Support Task Forces were to be merged and he asked if I’d serve as the operations officer of the new combined task force. It would mean an extension of active duty for one to two years. After thinking about it for a day, I sent him an e-mail saying he’d let Defense HUMINT leadership know of his decision to select me. Just days before I was due to return to DC (probably the last week of February 2004) Bill sent me a note telling me that he could not offer me the position – that something was going on that he could not talk about and said that I would not be extended on active duty. I requested him to clarify this change of heart and he would not – he would only say that “leadership” would not allow him to put me into the position.

(U) At the conclusion of this fully successful ADVON mission (by all accounts from leadership at both standing task forces in Afghanistan, and from [ ] at DHS HQs), and my return to Washington the first week of March 2004 without warning or reason, my Top Secret/SCI clearance was suspended. Upon my return to DIA, I was called in to Army COL [ ] office, told that the DIA IG had “substantive allegations” against me that required that my clearance be suspended and that I was being transferred to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) Ft. Meyer, VA for the duration of my active duty. My DIA badge was confiscated and I was sent to Ft. Meyer to report to report in to the HHC Company Commander.

(U) Upon reporting in, though the HHC commander Captain Vic Harris could not tell me the content, he did say that he had read the DIA IG report and the allegations against me – and his assessment was simple – they were nothing major – I had pissed someone off. He felt that there was nothing to the allegations, but could not tell me what they were. He allowed me casual duty for the remainder of my active duty period (until 1 Jun 2004).

If you can connect the dots there, the combined task force he is talking about would be Task Force 121:

TF121 is a combination of the now defunct Task Force 5 and Task Force 20, which operated in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively. Acting on the apparent logistic redundancy of keeping two separate task force teams for Iraq and Afghanistan, General John Abizaid decided to combine both teams into a single streamlined force, forming the TF121.


TF121's primary mission is the apprehension of "High Value Targets" or HVTs: key figures in organizations involved in the War on Terror, such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Mullah Mohammed Omar and other senior leaders of Al Qaeda, Taliban and high ranking officials of the former Iraqi Regime.

The task force has been organized in such a way that it has a close relationship with intelligence personnel (CIA operators are an integral part of the unit) and has timely and unhindered access to any relevant data gathered by intelligence assets in the area. Such an option is invaluable to any Special Operations team, and especially so to one whose primary mission is hunting elusive fugitive whose hideouts change frequently and randomly.

Many TF121 groups are assigned Special Forces CIRA (Communications Intelligence Reconnaissance and Action) operators with expertise in relevant fields. These operators work closely with the intelligence agencies tied to TF121 and work to pinpoint and identify HVTs aggressively.

That's right, Lt. Col. Shaffer was chasing Bin Laden on Task Force 5 in Afghanistan when he was asked by the chief of Task Force 20 in Iraq if he would serve as the operations officer for Task Force 121. He accepted the offer, but the assignment was rejected by officials at DIA headquarters because Shaffer had spoken to members of the 9/11 Commission about a project called Able Danger when they visited Bagram.

As of today, Lt. Col. Shaffer's security clearance is still revoked.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Operation Two Guys in a Bar

Interesting follow up on a story we blogged about here a few weeks ago.

Steve Engelberg was the editor for Judy Miller at the New York Times, when she got a tip that the NSA had intercepted a message between two Al Qaeda operatives in July 2001 where one said not to worry, they were planning something so big as a follow up to the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the US would have to respond this time.

Steve was interviewed on MSNBC about the story last night and claimed:

We had two guys talking somewhere in the world about a possible al Qaeda attack. And the questions I asked Judy were, OK, which two guys, where are they, or is it two guys in a bar, or is it, you know, Ayman Zawahiri? I mean, we needed to know before we would even have anything to discuss with Bill, you know, what we had. And we didn‘t have much.

Of course, that was not what he told Editor Scott Malone recently:

“On September 11th, I was standing on the platform at the 125th Street station,” he remembered ruefully more than four years later. “I was with a friend and we both saw the World Trade Center burning and saw the second one hit. ‘It’s Al-Qaeda!’ I yelled. ‘We had a heads up!’ So yes, I do still have regrets.”

It does not quite fit with what Judy has said, either:

“I realized that this information was enormously sensitive, and that it was going to be difficult to get more information, but that my source undoubtedly knew more. So I promised to Steve that I would go back and try to get more. And I did... try.

“He knew who my source was. He knew that the source was impeccable. I had also confirmed from a second source that such a conversation had taken place -- that there was such an intercept -- though my second source did not seem to know as much about the content of the intercept as the first source did. But that was enough for me to know that there was a good story there.

“But whoever knew about the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ was not willing tell me at that time. After the fact I was told that, ‘The bad guys were in Yemen on this conversation.’ I didn’t know that at that time. I remember knowing that the person who’ve told me seemed to know who had been overheard, but he was not about to share that information with me....

Anyway, you can watch the Countdown segment at MSNBC.COM.

Here is the full transcript:

And could reporter Judith Miller have broken a story in July 2001 that might have changed history, might have altered 9/11? We‘ll talk to the editor who worked with her on the warning that never came.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It‘s almost exactly the same revisionist history that pointed a finger at Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s administration long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, that the government either knew the attack was coming, or helped to facilitate it in order to further its own agenda.

Sixty-plus years later, that argument is being applied to 9/11, 500 conspiracy theorists gathering in Chicago over the weekend to argue that the Bush administration trained the hijackers and blew up the twin towers. That may be a lot stronger stuff than most Americans can contemplate, let alone believe.

But what‘s hinted at in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN has a far higher level of acceptance, the idea that enough people in the establishment knew something of what was coming, that somebody might have done something to alter or thwart the attacks, perhaps merely by revealing what they had heard.

A source apparently told “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller that al Qaeda was planning something big, but the story never ran. In July 2001, Miller was working on a series of investigative pieces into al Qaeda when an unnamed White House source gave her a tipoff, telling her about an NSA intercept between two al Qaeda operatives who were lamenting the lack of response from the U.S. to the bombing of the U.S.S. “Cole” in 2000. According to Miller, her source shared that, quote, “One al Qaeda operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don‘t worry, we‘re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.”

Miller said she took the tip to her editor, Stephen Engelberg, but that because she could not find out who the operatives were or where the conversation took place, they decided not to go with the story until they found more details. But they never found them.

Quote, “Washington being Washington, and the counterterrorism world being the counterterrorism world, I was soon off pursuing other things. I simply couldn‘t nail it down with more specificity.”

What happened two months later, we all know all too well.

Miller‘s then-editor at “The New York Times,” currently the managing editor for the newspaper “The Portland Oregonian,” Stephen Engelberg, joins us now.

Mr. Engelberg, thank you for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: Can we apply the logical fallacy here, event A happens, in this case event A doesn‘t happing—happen, no story based on this tip happens. Event B then happens. Obviously it‘s 9/11. That does not necessarily mean event A caused event B. Or do you think a second source on that one tip would have actually changed things?

ENGELBERG: It‘s hard to say. I mean, one thing that you have to keep in mind is that in that period of history, July of 2001, there were an enormous number of tips floating around. The United States government, on the July 4 weekend of that year, was very, very worried that al Qaeda was going to attack an American embassy overseas. And we heard a lot about that.

And they were still quite nervous at the end of July when this tip came in. So this was not sort of an isolated thing that we only heard one of. This was one of, you know, a number of things that we heard about al Qaeda.

And the question was, you know, how reliable is it? And if it‘s reliable, what is the government doing about it? And we never got to even the second question, because we weren‘t able to confirm the first part of it.

OLBERMANN: What would have happened if you had, in some manner or way, gone with a one-source story hinting at a domestic terror attack or a terror attack of some great prominence from al Qaeda in July 2001? I mean, we hear that phrase, pre-9/11 thinking, these days until we get nauseous from it. But there was a different mindset about that. Would it have been taken seriously, do you think?

ENGELBERG: Well, it‘s hard to say. Perhaps. I mean, you certainly can spin a scenario that way, because the government already had so many other things in its hands, perhaps one last little nudge from a newspaper like that might have caused them to put together various pieces of the puzzle.

I mean, remember, we have Moussaoui in Minnesota, who gets arrested in August. We have the flight training in Phoenix. We have the CIA and FBI losing track of the two guys who came in who were living in California.

I mean, there were so many pieces of evidence out there that perhaps, sure, if we had done something, you never know, perhaps this would have just been the last little straw that broke the camel‘s back.

OLBERMANN: Bill Keller, who was the managing editor of “The New York Times” at the time, told the Internet reporter Rory O‘Connor that he‘d never heard anything about the al Qaeda attack tip from either you or from Ms. Miller. Is that true? And if so, you‘ve alluded to the number of tips at that time and the great generalized concern. But who made the call not to shoot that up further up the power structure? And what was the basis for it?

ENGELBERG: Well, I reported directly to Bill, and it wasn‘t really a big decision. I would bring him things that I felt had some reality behind them. And this particular tip, we didn‘t really have much to go on. We had two guys talking somewhere in the world about a possible al Qaeda attack. And the questions I asked Judy were, OK, which two guys, where are they, or is it two guys in a bar, or is it, you know, Ayman Zawahiri? I mean, we needed to know before we would even have anything to discuss with Bill, you know, what we had. And we didn‘t have much.

OLBERMANN: Do you find any inconsistency between the decision-making process on that story and the decision-making processes on the later Judith Miller stories about WMD, the ones that her name is now inextricably linked to?

ENGELBERG: Well, I was, you know, long gone from the “Times” by the time most of that material appeared. And I think “The Times” itself has said in its Editors‘ Note that if they had it all to do again, they might have proceeded a little differently.

Certainly, when I was there, Judy was, you know, encouraged by her bosses, including me, to vet this kind of stuff five different ways to Sunday. I mean, you know, one doesn‘t want to go out with anonymous sources and panic everybody without a very, very good reason.

OLBERMANN: Stephen Engelberg, the managing editor of the “Portland Oregonian,” formerly of “The “New York Times,” great thanks for sharing this with us. We appreciate it.

ENGELBERG: My pleasure.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Weldon to receive Semper Fidelis Award

Show your own support here. From the latest press release:

WASHINGTON (2 JUN) - In recognition of his distinguished service in support of the United States Marine Corps (USMC), U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) will receive the Semper Fidelis Award during the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation's 20th Annual Scholarship Gala tomorrow night in Washington, D.C.

Congressman Weldon will join a long and distinguished list of Semper Fidelis award recipients, including Senator John Warner (R-Va.), former Secretary of the Navy and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.), a retired 37-year Marine combat veteran.

The Semper Fidelis Award is presented each year by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation to a Member of Congress who has historically been supportive of the United States military, and especially supportive of the USMC. The award is a Marine Corps Officer's sword and scabbard - an honor usually only bestowed upon a Marine Corps officer.

"The Marine Officer's sword is not given, it is earned," said Chris Randolph, president and CEO of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. "Congressman Weldon's long-term support and commitment to provide the men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps with the finest equipment, and his service as a tireless advocate for the needs of America's warfighter is well-known and greatly appreciated."

Weldon and Shaffer speak at Norristown event

No, it was not a political fundraiser. It was an event held for the local library.

Keith Phucas at the Norristown Times Herald:

There are plenty of books and lots of elbow room at Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, but some departments need to be renovated, according to library officials. On Thursday, library staff held its Third Annual Cocktail Party and showed off a master plan for redesigning parts of the interior....

Congressman Curt Weldon, R-7th Dist., who is running for re-election in the Seventh District this year, was guest speaker at the event.

His special guest was Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, the decorated Army Reserve officer who went public a year ago with the "Able Danger" program that identified hijacker Mohamed Atta, and other al-Qaida terrorists, more than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Times Herald broke the "Able Danger" story on June 19, 2005, after interviewing Shaffer in Weldon's U.S. House office.

Shaffer was blackballed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), his employer, after speaking publicly about the secret program in August.

Shaffer and defense contractor, James D. Smith, who also worked on the data mining effort, testified in February that the program linked Atta to a terrorist cell centered at a Brooklyn mosque. The "Able Danger" team also identified four other terrorist cells in other countries.

"They knew what (the terrorists) were planning would be dangerous to America," Weldon said.

However, the Pentagon program was shut down in April 2000, frustrating the project team.

Shaffer said Pentagon bureaucrats were still hiding the reasons why "Able Danger" was scrubbed. He said Defense Department officials should be held to the same standards as corporate executives at Enron.

"If Enron can be held accountable, then why can't Pentagon officials?" He asked.

Last summer, Weldon began complaining publicly that the cutting-edge project to identify al-Qaida was ignored by the 9/11 Commission and left out of the commission's 2004 report. The Congressman also denounced the DIA for intimidating Shaffer and revoking his security clearance.

Weldon unfurled a huge chart with hundreds of al-Qaida members - some pictured, others represented as stick figures - that populated terror cells globally.

"If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will," Weldon said.

The House member signed copies of his book, "Countdown to Terror," which details intelligence tips he received from an Iranian expatriate "Ali" in Paris, France.

According to the book, Ali alerted authorities to a Pakistani group in Canada plotting to fly a plane into New Hampshire's Seabrook nuclear power plant in 2004, warned about Iran's advanced nuclear program, and in his final fax to Weldon days before Iran's election, "Ali" predicted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would become the country's president.

"Countdown to Terror" is highly critical of the CIA for discounting the Iranian intelligence source. Weldon said he wrote the book to inform the public about the shortcomings of U.S. intelligence.

"The whole effect is to get our intelligence service back on track to protect the American people," he said.

Shaffer repeated his claim that had "Able Danger" been allowed to continue, it could have disrupted the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We had a shot to take those guys out before 9/11," he said. "We did (have a chance)."

Bush nominates new DOD Inspector General

No clue if this is good news or bad. Ideally, it means the IG could show some more independence and leadership. Unfortunately, things can get lost in the shuffle, so I'm not exactly holding my breath.

From the press release at

President George W. Bush today announced his intention to nominate three individuals, appoint four individuals, and upon confirmation and appointment designate three individuals to serve in his Administration:

The President intends to nominate David H. Laufman, of Texas, to be Inspector General of the Department of Defense. Mr. Laufman currently serves as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Prior to this, he served as Chief of Staff for the Office of the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice. Earlier in his career, he served as Investigative Counsel for the House Ethics Committee. Mr. Laufman received his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his JD from Georgetown University.

From Michael Scherer at

Late-breaking word from the White House: The president has decided, after months of delay, to nominate a new inspector general for the Department of Defense, a once formidable watchdog position that has been vacant since September. The new guy is David H. Laufman, who now works as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

On the surface, I know this sounds like so much bureaucratic baseball. But in the complex chess game that is Washington, it represents a golden opportunity for Congress to actually show some oversight of Donald Rumsfeld's big house across the Potomac.